Thousands of migrant workers from Delhi and other NCR towns reached Ramlila Maidan in Ghaziabad on 18th May, Monday to secure passes for Shramik Special trains to their homes in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh amid the COVID-19 lockdown, triggering chaos and confusion.
The Indian Railways had arranged six special trains to ferry a total of 7,200 migrant workers from Ghaziabad railway station to leave for Patna, Muzaffarpur and Raxaul in Bihar and Azamgarh, Banaras and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh during the day.
According to administrative instructions, the workers had to reach Ramlila Maidan to first secure their passes to board the trains after which they were to be ferried to the railway station in buses.
Accordingly, the workers from Delhi and other NCR town begun reaching Ghaziabad since Sunday evening and early morning on Monday along with their family members including women and children to secure train passes.
This resulted in — by conservative estimates — over ten to twelve thousand workers reaching the sprawling field by noon on Monday with hundreds of them queuing up in five to six lines, each 500 to 600 meters long, to secure passes from as many make-shift counters set up in the maidan.
While thousands of workers queued up before counters, their family members and others sat in the field, braving scorching sun for hours altogether with hapless women and children getting restless with thirst and fatigue, said eyewitnesses.
Yet others queued up before buses parked in the fields under the impression that they would be ferried to the railway station in them, only to be dismayed after coming to know after hours of wait that they were going nowhere, said eyewitnesses.
Among the people waiting in the field, the precautionary steps of maintaining social distancing or wearing face masks against possible COVID infection stood thrown to the wind, with even a few policemen present there unable to do anything about it.
It goes to the credit of workers themselves that they maintained a semblance of discipline without losing their patience amid the trying and testing circumstances.
Ghaziabad Senior Superintendent of Police Kalanidhi Naithani, however, brushed aside the charges of policemen handling the crowd casually. Several thousand workers reached here from Delhi and other parts of the NCR. They were gathered at border of Delhi and Ghaziabad. Arrangement for their stay was also made in a mall and two farmhouses, Naithani told PTI.
After seeing the huge crowd of workers, the district also administration managed to deploy 100 buses to dispatch workers to various districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Additional District Magistrate (Executive) Santosh kumar Vaish told PTI.
He said out of six trains, two left Ghaziabad during the day while two during the evening and remaining two during the night, he added.